Speed Silhouette Excitement at 2019 Extreme Benchrest

The Speed Silhouette competition is always a highlight of Extreme Benchrest. The rapid fire and reactive targets create a buzz for the shooters and this is shared by the spectators too.

Everyone gathers around to see those little metal targets spin as they’re hit!

Speed Silhouette Excitement at 2019 Extreme Benchrest

But this year there was an added twist. In addition to the Sportsman’s and Professional Class, there was an Open Class for Speed Silhouette. The winner was Alex Hatfield, in action in our heading photograph at the start of this story. Below we see him (right) at the winners’ presentation, together with John Bagakis (center, second) and Travis Patten (left).

Extreme Benchrest 2019 Winners

What’s the difference? Well in the Sportsmans and Professional classes, the gun is unloaded. Pellets cannot be taken out of their tin – or loaded into a magazine – before the event starts.

In Open Class, the gun, or magazine is already loaded. Also, any type of air rifle can be used. Including semi automatic! This means that – for the first time so far as I am aware – there’s been a contest between great shooters using both semi-auto and sidelever actions in the same competition.

Which would win? The new, high-tech speed of the autoloader, or the incredible expertise and speed of a top manual-loading shooter? This was a historic challenge, to be sure!

Of course, the LCS SK19 selective fire air rifle was an extremely strong contender. Yet the three winners all used sidelever action guns. Why was that?

Speed Silhouette Excitement at 2019 Extreme Benchrest

In a word – loading. Of course the SK19 is incredibly fast to fire using its semi-automatic action. However, it has a fixed magazine holding 19 pellets (in .22 caliber). This lack of an interchangeable magazine means that it’s relatively slow to load, as we can see above.

Alex used an FX Impact with a sliding action conversion. This was designed by Val Simmons and is sold by Saber Tactical. HAM readers first heard about it in this story. It allows the Impact’s sidelever action to be operated with a “trombone slider” action. He combined this with a high capacity magazine.

Less than one second behind Alex, John Bagakis was using a very slightly modified Daystate Red Wolf.

As we can see above and below, John’s gun used a modified sidelever action having a shorter – and therefore quicker – stroke. However, this was a much less complex modification than that applied to Alex’s gun.

Speed Silhouette Excitement at 2019 Extreme Benchrest

Travis Patten also used an FX Impact for his third position, although this was – I believe – unmodified.

So, will a semi-auto win Speed Silhouette competitions at EBR in future?

The answer obviously has to be “yes”. But probably it will need a semi-automatic air rifle with interchangeable magazines to do so. One thing is for sure – technology is continually improving – it’s just a matter of time. As he won an LCS SK19 as part of his prize in this competition, maybe it will be him next year, but firing semi-auto.

But for now, it’s congratulations to Alex and the slide action!!!